"The Son of Man"
Rene Magritte - Oil On Canvas - 116 x 89 cm
The Son of Man (French: Le fils de l'homme) is a 1964 painting by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte.
Magritte painted it as a self-portrait. The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a short wall, beyond which is the sea and a cloudy sky. The man's face is largely obscured by a hovering green apple. However, the man's eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. Another subtle feature is that the man's left arm appears to bend backwards at the elbow.
About the painting, Magritte said:
At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It's something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.
The Son of Man resembles The Great War on Façades (La Grande Guerre Façades), another Magritte painting featuring similar imagery. Both feature a person standing in front of a wall overlooking the sea. The Great War on Façades, however, features a woman holding an umbrella, her face covered by a flower. There is also Man in the Bowler Hat, a similar painting where the man's face is obscured by a bird rather than an apple.
The Son of Man is a prominent motif in the 1999 art heist remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. In this film, a copy of the painting is prominently displayed in the home of the protagonist. The love interest takes note of it as "the stereotypical faceless businessman". The protagonist of the film uses numerous accomplices, all dressed like the subject of the painting, to confuse the police while he enters the museum to apparently return the painting he stole earlier in the film. The bowler-hatted men all carry identical briefcases full of copies of The Son of Man.
It is also referenced in the 2006 film Stranger Than Fiction, and in the 2009 indie film (500) Days of Summer by a bowler hat with a green apple on it in the female lead's apartment.
In Gary Braunbeck's novel Keepers, the antagonist figures (the "Keepers" of the title) resemble the nattily-dressed, bowler-hatted figures of Magritte's painting. Also, in the opening scene of the book, the reference is directly made and explained to this resemblance because of an apple-scented car air freshener printed with the image of the painting hanging in the protagonist's car.
In Araki Yasusada's 1994 novel The Dynamics of an Asteroid, the protagonist, Alice, is plagued by packages from an elusive character referred to as 'K', whose recurring motif is the distinctive apple from the painting.
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